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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Tuesday December 26, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 274) |

Ashcroft "Calms the Far Right"; Bush Hit From the Left by CBS, NBC & CNN Reporters; 13th Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting

1) CBS and ABC Friday night highlighted vitriolic liberal opposition to Bush's pick of John Ashcroft for Attorney General while not running any soundbites in his favor. NBC's Brian Williams declared that he "calms the far right politically." Dan Rather asserted Ashcroft is "known for his tough anti-abortion stand" while Christie Todd Whitman "supports abortion rights."

2) Network reporters hit Bush from the left in his press conference. CBS's John Roberts asked about his "willingness to break with... conservatives"; NBC's David Gregory wanted to know if he'd "consider a moratorium on the federal death penalty"; and CNN's Major Garrett pointed out how "some...thought there was some racial motivation behind" Ashcroft's opposition to a judge.

3) The 18 winning quotes in the MRC's "The Best Notable Quotables of 2000: The Thirteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." Learn who won the "Quote of the Year."

     >>> CyberAlert Countdown Calendar to the 1,000th edition. Today's is the 995th numbered issue, so 5 more to go. <<<


CBS and ABC pounced Friday night on George W. Bush's pick of Senator John Ashcroft as his Attorney General, immediately highlighting liberal opposition while not running any soundbites in his favor as both raised his fight against the nomination to the federal bench of a black Missouri Supreme Court justice. CBS adopted liberal terminology as Dan Rather told viewers Ashcroft is "known for his tough anti-abortion stand" while New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman, Bush's choice to head the EPA, "supports abortion rights."

    Ashcroft "calms the far right politically," declared NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. I haven't had an opportunity to check definitively, but I'm fairly certain no one with NBC News ever said that any Clinton cabinet pick in 1992 "calms the far left politically."

    In alphabetical order, here's how the three broadcast networks on Friday night, December 22, handled Bush's first nomination of a conservative for his cabinet:

    -- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Peter Jennings opened the show by stressing liberal opposition:
    "George W. Bush has chosen the person he wants to be Attorney General. He is the 58-year old soon to be former Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri. Senator Ashcroft lost his bid for re-election this year. The Senator is a former law professor and former Attorney General of Missouri and Governor -- from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. And some of the positions he's taken as a politician have galvanized liberal opposition to his nomination today."

    Reporter Mike von Fremd called Ashcroft the "most controversial nominee so far" since he will upset Democrats. After a soundbite of Bush praising Ashcroft, von Fremd picked very selectively from his voting record: "The American Conservative Union gives him a top approval rating. He has voted against some tobacco regulations, against expanding hate crimes legislation and against allowing abortions in military hospitals. A record that troubles most Democratic constituencies." Without a syllable from anyone favorable, von Fremd ran back-to-back negative blasts:
    Wade Henderson, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights: "For a President-elect who's committed to united the country not dividing it, this nomination is one of the most divisive he could have chosen."
    Elizabeth Cavendish, Legal Director, NARAL: "We're tremendously concerned that this is a harbinger of things to come."
    Von Fremd then painted in racial terms an event which earned Ashcroft the wrath of liberals: "Mr. Ashcroft has also angered civil rights groups for blocking the nomination of Missouri Supreme Court judge Ronnie White to the federal bench. Judge White was the first black member of Missouri's Supreme Court. Ashcroft said the judge was soft on criminals."

    Following a clip of Bush saying he's confident Ashcroft believes in civil rights and a soundbite from Ashcroft himself promising to enforce the laws with integrity, von Fremd concluded:
    "Now this is the first nomination to have been even mildly controversial. But it does go a long way to satisfy the conservative wing of Mr. Bush's party. And Peter he'll need them when he begins to govern."

    Indeed, since he certainly won't have the media.

    -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather began: "Good evening. Anti-abortion groups and the self-described Religious Right could not be happier with President-elect George Bush's nominee for U.S. Attorney General. Bush today named John Ashcroft, a just-defeated Republican Senator from Missouri known for his tough anti-abortion stand. Planned Parenthood immediately urged Congress not to confirm him. Bush also named New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, who supports abortion rights, for a post with no role in abortion policy. She was picked to head the Environmental Protection Agency."

    John Roberts dubbed Ashcroft the "most controversial" Bush pick so far as he pointed out how Ashcroft was "the only politician in modern times defeated by a dead man." Roberts stressed: "Ashcroft is a darling of the Republican right, but his strong stance against abortion and his leading role in killing the appointment of Missouri judge Ronnie White to the federal bench, prompted a sharp rebuke today from liberal activist groups."
    Ralph Neas, PAW: "John Ashcroft's nomination is an insult to every American who is committed to equality of opportunity for all Americans. This is an astonishingly bad nomination."

    Roberts noted that Democratic Senator Leahy promised not to hold up Ashcroft's nomination but warned that serious questions will be posed to him. Roberts moved on to Whitman and he matched Rather's biased abortion labeling: "The choice of Ashcroft gives Bush a bit of breathing space to go after some moderates. Today he named New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman to head the Environmental Protection Agency. At odds with conservatives over her support for abortion rights, Whitman was seen as too controversial for other cabinet positions that would write social policy."

    -- NBC Nightly News. Fill-in anchor Brian Williams led the broadcast by emphasizing Ashcroft's appeal to the "far right" of the GOP: "America's second ever Bush administration is taking shape tonight with the naming of a GOP veteran to a crucial position. If confirmed, conservative Missouri Republican Senator John Ashcroft will be this nation's next Attorney General. With this move Mr. Bush rewards a defeated U.S. Senator, calms the far right politically and makes a decidedly law and order statement."

    Reporter David Gregory actually never raised the White case as he observed his appeal to conservatives: "While conservative sources say he is not Bush's first choice, and could face a difficult confirmation battle, this Missouri Republican will go a long way to appease the President-elect's conservative political base."

    Gregory also touched on "abortion rights supporter" Whitman: "Even as a small crowd gathers to protest Bush's environmental record as Governor, the President-elect names a moderate Republican, New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman, to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a position Bush announces will carry cabinet rank in his administration. By naming Whitman, an abortion rights supporter, Bush appears determined to strike an ideological balance."

    Next, Pete Williams profiled Ashcroft. Williams began: "Today's nomination brings the Bush team its first experienced baritone, member of the Singing Senators quartet. And its first bedrock conservative..."


Three questions from the network big boys, three questions from the left. George W. Bush held a mini press conference Friday morning after he announced John Ashcroft as his choice for Attorney General. Reporters for CBS, NBC and CNN, but not ABC, posed questions and all three came from the left.

    CBS's John Roberts pressed Bush about his "willingness to break with the Republican leadership and conservatives in your party"; NBC's David Gregory wanted to know if he'd "consider a moratorium on the federal death penalty"; and CNN's Major Garrett raised Ashcroft's opposition to the nomination of Ronnie White and relayed the liberal spin: "Some criticized that and thought there was some racial motivation behind that."

    -- CBS News reporter John Roberts: "You made it a centerpiece of your campaign to reform and upgrade the military, yet it would appear that in an otherwise painless transition you're still having some problems finding a Secretary of Defense. I'm wondering, sir, what can you tell us about the problems that you're experiencing, what of Senator Coats who is said to be a frontrunner among congressional Republicans, and what do your deliberations say about your willingness to break with the Republican leadership and conservatives in your party?"

    -- NBC News reporter David Gregory: "The Clinton administration has questioned the fairness of the federal death penalty. Will you consider a moratorium on the federal death penalty and Senator Ashcroft, as incoming Attorney General, is that something you think should be done?"

    -- CNN reporter Major Garrett: "In the civil rights community Senator Ashcroft is well known for blocking the elevation to the federal bench of Ronnie White, a Supreme Court justice in Missouri. Some criticized that and thought there was some racial motivation behind that. I'd like you to address that controversy sir and also tell us what the civil rights division of the Department of Justice will do under his leadership different from what Bill Lan Lee has done, who's very much criticized by Republicans in the Senate, including Mr. Ashcroft."


The winning quotes in the MRC's "The Best Notable Quotables of 2000: The Thirteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." The annual end of the year special 8-page edition of NQ is based upon the votes of 46 judges -- radio talk show hosts, columnists, editorial writers, magazine editors and media observers -- who evaluated and ranked quotes in 18 award categories.

    To view all the winning quotes as well as the two or three top runners-up and, thanks to Webmaster Andy Szul, RealPlayer video clips for two dozen of the quotes from TV shows, go to: http://archive.mrc.org/bestofnq2000.html

    To see the 8-page issue typeset as snail mail subscribers saw the newsletter, access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version. Go to: http://archive.mrc.org/news/nq/pdf/bestofnq2000.pdf

    Below are the winning quotes followed by the list of the judges who selected first, second and third place choices in all 18 categories. Point totals are in brackets after each quote. First place picks were assigned three points, second place choices were given two points and third place selections were allocated one point. The MRC elections officer, Kristina Sewell, totaled them up and the numbers withstood a recount and a hand count. Here are the results, starting with the "Quote of the Year" which earned just one more point than the first runnner-up in the category:

Quote of the Year

"Yup, I gotta confess, that now-famous picture of a U.S. marshal in Miami pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato Dalrymple and ordering him in the name of the U.S. government to turn over Elian Gonzalez warmed my heart. They should put that picture up in every visa line in every U.S. consulate around the world, with a caption that reads: 'America is a country where the rule of law rules. This picture illustrates what happens to those who defy the rule of law and how far our government and people will go to preserve it. Come all ye who understand that.'"
-- Thomas Friedman, former New York Times reporter and occasional PBS Washington Week in Review panelist, April 25 New York Times column. [68 points]

Aiding & Abetting in an Election Theft Award

"Here we will have possibly a bunch of tax dodgers deciding the election."
-- Time's Margaret Carlson on Florida absentee ballots from military personnel, on MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, November 8. Florida does not have an income tax. (Carlson later apologized) [64 points]

Kiss Me, Too, Al Award (for Gore Gushing)

"At the same time, he will have to find a way to disassociate himself from the President's extremely low personal approval ratings. It shouldn't be that difficult. Al Gore has been perhaps the most active Vice President in American history, and there's not a hint of scandal associated with Gore's personal behavior. So much for logic." 
-- ABC Nightline host Ted Koppel previewing Al Gore's convention address, August 14. [44 points]

Kosher Kiss-Up Award (for Lauding Lieberman)

"Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore officially introduced his history-making running mate today, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. History-making because Lieberman is of Jewish heritage and faith. The two started running right away. In their first joint appearance they gave a preview of the Gore-Lieberman fight-back, come-back strategy. Their message: They represent the future, not the past, and they are the ticket of high moral standards most in tune with real mainstream America."
-- Dan Rather introducing the Gore-Lieberman ticket, August 8 CBS Evening News. [62 points]

I Am Woman Award (for Hillary Rodham Worshiping)

"I'm endlessly fascinated by her....She's so smart. Virtually every time I've seen her perform, she has knocked my socks off."
-- CBS News reporter Lesley Stahl on Hillary Clinton, as quoted by Gail Shister in the December 8, 1999 Philadelphia Inquirer. [91 points]

Carve Clinton into Mount Rushmore Award

"You're going to miss that guy. Don't tell me you're not gonna miss that guy. This is a master. He may be a rogue, but he is an artful and pleasant rogue and done a hell of a job as President. I'm gonna miss the guy...He should've been the vice presidential candidate."
-- Geraldo Rivera after humming the theme from Rocky over footage of Clinton's pre-speech hallway walk at the Democratic convention, August 21 Rivera Live on CNBC. [81 points]

Media Hero Award

"However formal the father-son relationship, it was strong enough that Al [Gore] went off to war for him. When most kids wouldn't come to the dinner table wearing a clean T-shirt, Al signed up for Vietnam to diminish the impact of his father's opposition to the war in his unsuccessful fight to keep his Senate seat in 1970. Gore, to preserve his father's career, did what few sons of privilege had to do....As psychiatrists and Shakespeare would have it, a son comes into his own when he surpasses his father. By that measure, Gore is fully grown. Unlike the breezy George W. Bush, who was on a career respirator much of his adult life, Gore has worked up a sweat getting to where he is."
-- Time columnist Margaret Carlson, February 28. [60 points]

The Real Reagan Legacy Award

Co-host Bryant Gumbel: "Well, later on this morning we're going to be talking on this President's Day about this presidential survey. Who would you think finished first?...Of all the Presidents when they did first to worst. Oh c'mon, you would know."
Clayson: "Ronald Reagan."
Gumbel, dropping his pen: "First?!?!"
Clayson: "Who was it?"
Gumbel: "No! Reagan wasn't even in the top ten. Abraham Lincoln. Maybe you've heard of him."
-- Exchange on CBS's The Early Show about C-SPAN poll of historians which ranked Reagan 11th, February 21. [95 points]

Flirting with Disaster Award (for Proximity to Conservatives)

"The platform is, again, very strongly pro-life and rejects abortion rights, and the platform specifically comes out against gay unions, and against legal protections based on sexual preferences. So is this really an open, compassionate, tolerant party?"
-- Charles Gibson to Lynne Cheney, August 2 Good Morning America. [54 points]

The Galloping Ghost of Gingrich Award (for Chiding Cheney)

"And when you talk about votes like that, that he made while in Congress, anti-affirmative action, anti-abortion, anti-gun control, anti-equal rights, how does George Bush portray him as a compassionate conservative?"
-- Today co-host Matt Lauer to Tim Russert, July 26. [41 points]

W is for Woeful Award (for Bashing Bush)

"He went along with having an openly gay Congressman address the convention last night, yet Bush opposes hate crimes legislation, gay marriage and gay adoption. He is the candidate who talks of making health insurance available to all who want it, but has fought to limit federal insurance for children. Bush is the candidate who has proposed a huge tax cut as a way to help the working class. But more than sixty percent of the relief would go to the richest ten percent of Americans. And while he speaks of the need to protect the environment, Bush supports mostly voluntary efforts to do it."
-- ABC's Dean Reynolds, Aug. 2 World News Tonight. [44 points]

If He Didn't Sink, Send Him Back to the Clink Award (for Portraying a Cuban Paradise Awaiting Elian)

"While Fidel Castro, and certainly justified on his record, is widely criticized for a lot of things, there is no question that Castro feels a very deep and abiding connection to those Cubans who are still in Cuba. And, I recognize this might be controversial, but there's little doubt in my mind that Fidel Castro was sincere when he said, 'listen, we really want this child back here.'"
-- Dan Rather, live on CBS the morning of the Elian raid, April 22. [65 points]

Little Havana Banana Republic Award

"Some suggested over the weekend that it's wrong to expect Elian Gonzalez to live in a place that tolerates no dissent or freedom of political expression. They were talking about Miami. All eyes on south Florida and its image this morning. Another writer this weekend called it 'an out of control banana republic within America.' What effect is the Elian Gonzalez story having on perception of Miami? We will talk with a well-known columnist for the Miami Herald about that."
-- NBC's Katie Couric opening the April 3 Today. [60 points]

Semper Fidel Award (for Jim Avila's Admiration of Fidel Castro)

"What is deprogramming? What is reeducation? The young man [Elian] will go back into the, into the school system in Cuba. The school system in Cuba teaches that communism is the way to succeed in life and it is the best system. Is that deprogramming or is that national heritage? That's certainly what he'll be learning. He'll also be living in a different kind of society, a society that many people here in Cuba like. The CIA, in fact, says that if the borders were open that most, 90 percent of the population here in Cuba would stay in Cuba because they like it."
-- NBC News reporter Jim Avila from Cuba on CNBC's Upfront Tonight, June 27. [66 points]

Bring Back the Iron Curtain Award (for Admiring Communism)

"To be a poor child in Cuba may in many instances be better than being a poor child in Miami and I'm not going to condemn their lifestyle so gratuitously."
-- Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group, April 8. [62 points]

Damn Those Conservatives Award

"What a f--king idiot."
-- Bryant Gumbel caught on camera after he threw the show to a weather segment seconds after wrapping up a hostile interview with Robert Knight of the Family Research Council, June 29 The Early Show. [91 points]

Good Morning Morons Award

"In a macro-political sense, do you think the Gore preoccupation with morality is a frightening turn for the party?"
-- Bryant Gumbel to Hugh Hefner, host of a fundraiser moved to another location, August 15 The Early Show during the Democratic convention. [72 points]

Politics of Meaninglessness Award (for the Silliest Analysis)

"I had my opinions surgically removed when I became a network correspondent."
-- CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl denying liberal bias, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, January 25. [53 points]

    END Reprint of winning quotes in the MRC's awards for the year's worst reporting.

    Now, the list of the judges who gave generously of their time to complete our extensive ballot and return it to us in under two weeks:

-- Chuck Asay, editorial cartoonist, The Gazette in Colorado Springs
-- Brent Baker, Editor of MRC's CyberAlerts and Notable Quotables
-- Mark Belling, talk show host, WISN in Milwaukee
-- Neal Boortz, nationally syndicated radio talk show host
-- L. Brent Bozell III, Chairman of the Media Research Center
-- David Brudnoy, talk show host, WBZ in Boston; adjunct professor at Boston University
-- Priscilla Buckley, Contributing Editor of National Review
-- Tucker Carlson, Weekly Standard writer; co-host, CNN's Spin Room
-- Bernadette Malone Connolly, editorial page editor, Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader
-- Mark Davis, talk show host, ABC Radio and WBAP in Dallas-Ft. Worth; columnist, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
-- Midge Decter, writer and critic, New York City
-- Jim Eason, KSFO in San Francisco talk show host, emeritus
-- Don Feder, syndicated columnist and Boston Herald writer
-- Eric Fettmann, columnist and editorial board member, New York Post
-- Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis, Media Research Center
-- Kirk Healy, Executive Producer, Cox Radio, Orlando
-- Quin Hillyer, editorial writer, Mobile Register
-- Marie Kaigler, radio talk show host, Detroit
-- Cliff Kincaid, President, America's Survival
-- Mark Larson, talk show host and general manager at KCBQ/KPRZ in San Diego}
-- Jason Lewis, talk show host, KSTP in Minneapolis/St. Paul
-- Tony Macrini, talk show host, WNIS in Norfolk, Virginia
-- Don Markwell, talk show host, WACV in Montgomery, Alabama
-- Patrick McGuigan, Editor, editorial page, The Oklahoman
-- Jan Mickelson, talk show host, WHO in Des Moines
-- Gary Nolan, national radio talk show host, Radio America
-- Jane Norris, talk show host, WHAS Louisville & WLAP Lexington
-- Robert Novak, syndicated columnist and CNN commentator
-- Rich Noyes, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project
-- Kate O'Beirne, Washington Editor of National Review
-- Marvin Olasky, Senior Fellow, Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty; Editor of World magazine
-- Janet Parshall, nationally syndicated radio talk show host
-- Henry Payne, editorial cartoonist, The Detroit News
-- Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, Executive Editor, The American Spectator
-- Michael Reagan, nationally syndicated radio talk show host
-- Mike Rosen, talk show host, KOA in Denver; columnist, Denver Rocky Mountain News
-- William Rusher, Distinguished Fellow, Claremont Institute
-- Ron Smith, talk show host, WBAL in Baltimore
-- Ted J. Smith III, Professor of journalism, Virginia Commonwealth U.
-- Philip Terzian, nationally syndicated columnist
-- Cal Thomas, syndicated columnist; panelist on FNC's Fox Newswatch
-- R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., Editor-in-Chief of The American Spectator
-- Armstrong Williams, nationally syndicated columnist
-- Dick Williams, columnist; host of Atlanta's Georgia Gang
-- Walter Williams, Professor of economics, George Mason University
-- Thomas Winter, Editor-in-Chief of Human Events

    END list of judges.

    On Wednesday, the first runners-up. -- Brent Baker, hiding out in state where the President-elect captured a whopping 32 percent.


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